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Increase in Drug-Resistant Superbug Linked to Pandemic

Candida auris prevalent in hospitals treating patients with COVID-19

June 28, 2021

Researchers studying cultures of the fungus Candida auris (C.auris) collected at a Brazil hospital have noted a steep increase in the resistance of the superbug to antifungal drugs used to treat it, Medical News Today reports.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Fungi, suggests that the C. auris outbreaks and increasing resistance to antibiotics may be related to changes in infection control practices during the coronavirus pandemic, including the limited availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves.

The most recent C. auris sample collected from a COVID-19 intensive care unit needed an antifungal drug dose that was four to five times larger than the dose used to isolate a sample collected in December 2020.

“The species quickly becomes resistant to multiple drugs and isn’t very sensitive to the disinfectants used by hospitals and clinics,” said Dr. Arnaldo Colombo, head of the Special Mycology Laboratory at the Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil. “As a result, it’s able to persist in hospitals, where it colonizes workers and ends up infecting patients with severe COVID-19 and other long-stay critical patients.”

C. auris is a relatively new superbug. It was first described in 2009 after it was discovered in the ear canal of a 70-year-old woman in Tokyo. However, research indicates that multidrug-resistant C. auris simultaneously emerged in Pakistan, India, South Africa, and Venezuela around this time. Over the past decade, the mysterious yeast has been reported in patients from dozens of countries around the world, including the U.S., and infected over 4,700 people.

C. auris can cause infections of the bloodstream, wounds, and the ear. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 30% to 60% of people with C. auris infections die; however many of these patients also had other life-threatening illnesses.

In the past, C. auris infections were mostly seen in long-term care facilities for people with severe illnesses. However, since the start of the pandemic, outbreaks have been occurring in the COVID-19 units of hospitals.

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